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SAN DIEGO – The sweet sounds of San Diego’s live music scene return just in time for summer: But what exactly will it look like in a world with some lingering health restrictions?

On Tuesday, California retired its color-coded Blueprint for a Safer Economy system, which imposed rules on businesses and gatherings to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic. With it comes the end of physical distancing requirements and capacity limits for public gatherings, the latest step in the march toward normalcy in the state.

“Today does signify a turning of the page,” San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher told FOX 5. “If you want to go out, the bars are open. Your restaurants are open. Events are open.”

But Fletcher’s comments also came with a warning: “COVID is still here and we’re still going to keep an eye on it.”

And while there’s no longer any limits on the size of events around the county, there are a few things you should know before you head to a summer concert series or catch some live music at your favorite local haunt:


At indoor events large or small, current state masking guidelines say that people who are unvaccinated need to wear a face-covering inside. But the state has left it up to venues on how to verify a person’s vaccination status, meaning you’ll likely see some variation depending on where you’re headed.

The three approaches are:

  • Verification, with the venue checking guests’ vaccination status before they enter without a mask, or asking attendees to wear a face covering if they don’t provide verification
  • “Self-attesting,” meaning attendees are made aware of the requirements and are allowed to simply state that they are in compliance before entering without a mask (essentially, the “honor system”)
  • Requiring masks for all patrons, regardless of vaccination status

If you’re headed to a small or medium-sized show at a local venue, the masking rules are the only codes still imposed by the state. There are no COVID-19 related capacity limits on how many people can pack inside and no rules about physical distancing — meaning, yes, the return of the “pit.”

“Mega events”

The state’s latest guidance outlines additional rules for some events with thousands of attendees, dubbed “mega events.”

Attendees at indoor events with 5,000 or more people must confirm proof of vaccination or have a negative COVID-19 test to attend. So if you’re headed to a large-scale show at one of California’s indoor arenas, you can expect to be asked for one or the other.

It’s less restrictive for outdoor events, though the state still recommends gatherings with 10,000 or more people prove vaccination status or provide a negative test. You’ll want to check the venue’s website and the information on your ticket before you head to the show.

San Diego’s scene comes alive

With California’s reopening, event calendars in America’s Finest City have started filling up once again. In fact, some San Diego venues already are preparing to host guests for in-person shows as soon as this week, with concerts and other events building out to the summer months and into the fall season.

At the Music Box downtown, tickets are on sale for indoor shows starting as early as Thursday with a showcase by Pink Froyd and The Monroe’s, the first of three straight nights of live music there. Shows also resume Thursday at Humphreys Backstage Live on Shelter Island Drive.

Some local venues remain in wait-and-see mode, while others have finalized their plans to plunge ahead.

Onyx Nightclub downtown says bottle service for its grand reopening Friday is already sold out and it’s looking like it could be a record-breaking weekend. They plan to opt for the self-attesting approach to masking and vaccination status.

“We are so excited to open,” said Marketing Manager Carolina Barraza. “It’s always a great place to come in, let your hair down and just dance.”

At Belly Up in Solana Beach, President Chris Goldsmith says the venue is still finalizing plans for its return in early July. Tickets for the first month or so of shows are only being sold to 80% capacity — not because of any state mandate, but just to help ease folks in, he told FOX 5.

“We felt like it’d be nice … to give people more space,” Goldsmith said, adding, “My first time (back) in a crowd was sort of emotional.”

Belly Up will likely go the self-attestation route regarding masks, Goldsmith said, though he emphasized that all plans are still under consideration. He says guests will be made well-aware of any policies via email, if necessary.

The return of San Diego’s music scene will also bring the debut of a brand new outdoor venue: The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park opens to concertgoers the weekend of Aug. 6.

Opening weekend includes performances by the symphony, an evening called “The Best of Broadway” on Aug. 7 and a performance by Gladys Knight with special guest Naturally 7 on Aug. 8, San Diego Symphony spokeswoman Carrie Jones said in an email.

No updates were available on the Copley Symphony Hall, Jones said.

“All efforts are currently focused on The Shell and the inaugural season,” she said. “We have planned this first half season at The Shell with summer and part of fall. We expect to share more about the second half of the season in the coming months.”

Upcoming shows

Scheduled to play San Diego through the end of the year are some of music and comedy’s most recognizable names and beloved figures. Among many others, they include:

  • Sebastian Maniscalco, Aug. 14 at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park;
  • The Jonas Brothers, Aug. 25 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater in Chula Vista;
  • Harry Styles, Sept. 2 at Pechanga Arena;
  • Chelsea Handler, Sept. 5 at Humphreys Concerts By the Bay;
  • John Legend, Sept. 19 at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU;
  • KISS, Sept. 25 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater;
  • Brad Paisley, Oct. 2 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater;
  • Van Morrison, Oct. 5 at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre;
  • Maroon 5, Oct. 5 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater; and
  • Phish, Oct. 23 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater.

The California Department of Public Health website has complete information about remaining guidelines for masks and public events.